It was one of those gritty, hard-nosed performances that you see out of a Hollywood movie, but this time there was no happy ending for the women’s basketball team.
Senior guard Ashley Morris netted a career-high 28 points, but Temple fell to North Carolina State, 57-52, at the Liacouras Center Saturday. The Central High graduate carried the Owls (3-5) offensively, as the rest of the team managed only 24 points.
“Any loss is frustrating to me,” coach Dawn Staley said. “But I thought we stuck to the game plan. We just couldn’t hit any shots. We couldn’t get anything going besides Ashley. You’re not going to win a whole lot of basketball games when you only have one person scoring.”
The game started off on the see-saw, as three lead changes in the first six minutes foretold the game’s competitive nature. In order to keep players fresh, Staley rotated the lineup, giving 11 players time on the floor. The one constant was Morris, who played all 20 first-half minutes, ultimately making 7 of 12 shots for 17 points.
The Wolfpack (8-1) bit back, however, with bench players picking up the slack for struggling starters. While leading scorer Khadijah Whittington was handicapped by the Temple defense, several role players stepped in for 17 points. All and all, the balanced first half gave the Wolfpack a 27-25 advantage heading into the locker room.
The second half produced more Morris highlight-reel material, but the guard lost some steam in the middle stages of the stanza. Junior Shenita Landry stepped up to contribute nine points, all coming in the second half.
“I still feel that I’m a role player,” Landry said. “I’m just still a defensive player. Work hard, get rebounds and just help my team in smaller ways that we need.”
In the game’s final two minutes the Owls had several opportunities to either tie or take the lead. Morris took two of those opportunities, but with unsuccessful outcomes. The final attempt came with nine seconds on the clock. Morris’s shot came with controversy, as she believed the ball – which bounced off the top of the backboard – may have been deflected.
“I kind of got nudged and then the ball got tipped, so I’m thinking that we were going to get the ball back, but the refs didn’t see it that way. It is what it is,” Morris said.
Turnovers from Morris and LaKeisha Eaddy also gave the Wolfpack just enough momentum to hold onto their slim margin. The two guards combined for 14 turnovers.
The Owls struggled to find their post target of senior Lady Comfort, who added just four points. As a whole, the Owls shot only 35.3 percent from the field.
“Our guards definitely need to give the post players the ball a lot more and our post players have to stay energized enough to post up just in case they do get it,” Staley said. “We are a little inexperienced on the perimeter and getting the ball inside. The shots that [Morris] takes, if I take half of her shots and give them to Lady, who shoots career-wise 55 percent from the floor, we might be able to end up with a win.”
The Owls continue to find themselves on the opposite end of many closely-contested games, but are hoping the early season tribulations might just lead to a late-season surge worthy of a Hollywood-style ending.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.